Head Volleyball Coach Attributes Tough Season to Small Roster

By Megan LaCreta, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Volleyball isn’t always a numbers game, but for the Jaspers, it might be.

The Jaspers have a roster of only nine recruited volleyball players, just over half the size of that of the average MAAC team, which, when calculated excluding Manhattan College, is just under 16 players. The team’s struggle to fill its roster has led to a complicated season, with only one win to date.

The Jaspers have made up for their lack of players by having a rotating roster borrowed from other teams, including five players from the women’s basketball team and one from the women’s lacrosse team over the course of the semester. Despite the extra players, the Jaspers average only eight players per match, and have not yet attended a match this season with more than nine players. 

At the beginning of October, the team played a stretch of three matches against St. Francis Brooklyn, Fairfield and Quinnipiac with only six players — only one rotation, despite the roster currently listing 13 team members.

Senior Kelly Markowski remarked on her experience playing on the team this year. 

“It’s hard for sure,” Markowski said. “People are playing roles that they’re not used to, that they’ve never played before. And it definitely affects us, like when we show up to a game and the other school has 20 players and we have six. It is what it is, but it’s definitely hard and it’s hard on our bodies.”

The starting size of the roster was an issue of math. Following the 2021 season, the team lost nine players, including five underclassmen. However, only three new players were brought on to the team ahead of the season.

Marianne Reilly, director of intercollegiate athletics, explained that recruiting issues were the cause of the Jasper’s small roster size. Reilly attributed difficulty with recruiting to an article published in The Quadrangle, which revealed that previous head coach Lora Egbert was coaching from outside the gym due to her unvaccinated status during the 2021 season. New York City law at the time required vaccination against COVID-19 to take part in indoor recreation and fitness.

Reilly announced in March, after the end of the 2021 season, that Egbert would not be returning to the college, and that the search for a new coach would begin. While Egbert was well into the NCAA recruiting season at the time of her firing, present head coach Mauro Miletic was not hired until August, leaving him no time to build the roster through recruiting over the off-season.

“It took a while before we were able to land a coach and I’m sure all of that prior reporting, we’ll call it, didn’t help the situation to be quite honest with you,” Reilly said. “So I’m putting it right there out on the table. All of everything has a ripple effect. So when you have some negative publicity and present it a certain way, it will have a ripple effect.”

The size of the roster, coupled with inconsistencies caused by injuries and by the borrowed players’ scheduling conflicts, have contributed to the team’s poor record this season, explained Miletic. 

“[The team’s record] is not pretty, it’s not good at all, so that is how [an inconsistent roster] affects us,” Miletic said. “But we’re happy… We know we have a small roster, we’ve had some injuries. But we’ve got people happy and we are doing our best.”

In the face of a season with a roster half the size of their opponents’, the team did not hold open tryouts to allow students to join the team as walk-on athletes.

Reilly explained that potential recruits must go through a process to ensure that they are eligible for admission to the college, and also meet the NCAA standards for student athletes. Student walk-ons, who are not recruited in advance of the season, must go through the same process. She explained that the extent of the process makes it more efficient to have student athletes who were already processed join the team.

“It’s a paperwork process more than anything, because most of our students are going to surpass any of the minimum standards that have been set [by the college and the NCAA]. That said, if I take someone who already went through that process in basketball, they don’t have to [go through it again], they can just come over and play for us… If you want people on your squad quicker, yeah, better to recruit right from the pool that already went through that process,” Reilly said.

Miletic shared a similar sentiment.

“All we have to do is just make them eligible for rollover. They’re already here. It’s better than us making tryouts to find somebody that is not eligible,” Miletic said.

Despite relying on players from other teams this season, the Jaspers don’t intend to continue to have multi-sport athletes on their roster going forward.

“What happened this season was a one time thing, we are recruiting volleyball players only, the players from other sports that helped this year will not be part of the team next season,” Miletic said. “I do have to add that the volleyball team will be forever grateful to them for their help.”

Miletic intends to recruit eight players before next season, bringing the roster size up to 14 with the six returning players for the 2023 year. 

“Obviously with the results so far in this season and the results of the past few seasons recruiting gets a little bit more challenging, but luckily for us we are a great academic school in the greatest city in the world, and student athletes want to come here,” Miletic said. “We already have 4 verbal commitments for next season, which makes us super excited.”

Perhaps the team has a bright future ahead. It seems that this season, however, the Jaspers can only dream as big as their roster.